xelas

Namibia 2017: Two Cats on a hot Tin Roof

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There is one saying that we have used to describe our family travels: "The three of us are the best couple!". The three of us meant Zvezda, me and our daughter Tanja. That was a perfect traveling team for many years, until Tanja graduated and started to become independent financially; our new love, Africa, did not fit into her budget plans.

 

Until when Qatar Airways has announced a new direct route from Zagreb to Windhoek via Doha. At 550 Eur a trip to Africa was finally feasible. To keep the costs even more within her reach (and anyway it was my secret plan to start traveling this way), part-time camping became part of the upcoming trip.

 

​April/May is our preferred time, clear blue skies, almost no rain, and decent wildlife sightings. To make the best out of the plane ticket, we opted for a 3 weeks travel. Itinerary was easy to make, usual tourist clockwise route. Also stops along the route were quickly determined, and our travel agent of choice, mrs.Gemma from Discover Namibia did not have too complicated of a job.

 

The route:

 

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and the itinerary:

 

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Toyota Hilux with two roof top tents, and necessary camping equipment was again hired from Advanced Car Hire. Some needed and useful info has been collected from various sources, and in September 2016 we were all set to go.

 

Why not camping only?! Firstly, to allow the ladies some extra creature's comfort, and inside Etosha, to allow for being at the gate of the camps before they opens.

 

To start with the end: we all have enjoyed the new experience very much! We will camp more often, and we will be back to Namibia.

 

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Can't wait to hear more about the trip and see the pics!!!

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Great shot to start off with Alex!

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Bring it on!

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Day 1 - Chasing the Rainbows

 

 

Our Qatar flights were both on time, and it was only 90 minutes on Doha airport, so barely time to get from arrival to departure gate. The DOH is very new and very modern and very big airport. On return the connecting flights were 7 hours apart so I have promised my two ladies that instead of paying 250,00 Eur for the room in the airport hotel, they would be able to spent that amount in the shops. Little did they know I have made a secret deal with Qatar :P (more about at the very end of this report).

 

We were a bit late, for which I have used 15 minutes of free wifi time on the plane to send an email to mrs.Carla at Advanced; obviously the message did not reached the driver in time. Yet he gave us time to get some money from the ATM, and to buy an MTC SIM data card. Based on last year experience in Kruger 3 TB for cca. 30 USD. Even the MTC guy has had some problems activating it.

 

Then quickly to the Advanced garage, where Chris, head of the fleet has been waiting and our car was ready to roll. Not really, first a thorough inspection of the car and of the supplied camping gear, where mr.Driver (aka Alex) impressed Chris with his intimate knowledge of the pick-up process. Ha, easy task being our third visit to Advanced garage.

 

Tires are my field of expertise; some of you might remember me mentioning that in 2015, all 4 tires has to be changed as they did not comply with my high standards (or, with me having absolutely no inclination to fix a flat tire on the road, probably in the midday heat). This time, this was what happened:

me: "Chris, look, I have not changed tyre in a long time. Why not doing one test change here?!"

Chris: "Of course, mr.Alex, that is one great idea. I will help you with the jack."

 

He lifted the car (the complicated part of the process) and me and Tanja took of the wheel.

Chris: "Job well done! Put it back on and You are ready to go!"

me: "Not yet, Chris. Please take this tire and get me a new one!"

 

Because, inspecting the tires I have noticed one has a plug in it!! Chris saw the same, took a deep breath (or swallowed hard) and, with a smile on his face ordered the mechanic to bring a new tyre.

Only now we were ready to roll!

 

It was 10 am when the plane arrived, 11:15 when we exited the airport (quicker then on our previous two arrivals), 12:00 entering the garage and 13:00 exiting it. With a brief stop at nearby Shell gas station to fill up almost 140 litres of diesel into two tanks, we have hit the road in time to be at our first stop, Barchan Dune Lodge, before sunset. Another stop in Rehoboth to add food to the steaks that mrs.Carla has graciously provided for us. Driving on B1 was as smooth as possible, scarce traffic, well maintained road.

 

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Soon after Rehoboth we left the tar for next couple of days, turning first onto C24 and then on D1261 direction Spreetshoogte Pass.

 

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All of you readers have surely heard or read about abundant rains which have blessed Namibia this year. Most people have been nervous about the effect on the wildlife sighting in Etosha. I have had no such thoughts. Rain means green, and green means colourful photos :) . Yet, Windhoek was overcast, and when leaving the tar road shortly after Rehoboth, the signs of non-typical weather started to show on the sky.

 

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The Sign

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Approaching mountains weather goes from bad to ugly! Not that I have any problems driving in rain, even in thunderstorms, as in Costa Rica I have had plenty of those. Yet in Namibia, one is not accustomed to encounter this type of the weather :( .

 

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On top of Spreetshoogte Pass, the rain was hard, yet the storm has moved east and the sun started to shine below the clouds ... and that is when we have started to chase the rainbows :o !

 

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Plenty of fun for the photographers but not that easy on the driver, keeping both eyes on the road.

 

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Yet for an experienced driver like me, this was a "drive in the park" ;) , and we have reached the valley without any unwanted problem. Here the chase for the rainbows continued.

 

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With weather like this we were hoping for some scenic sunset! We got it, even better then hoping for.

 

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As we knew already that the rainstorm has "flushed away" the sundowner drive with Willem so we took our time, stopping frequently and starting to fill the cards. This is a photo of one very happy travellers :) !!

 

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Stormy weather makes for great pictures, and Zvezda did a great job (as always)! Love the sunset ones and the rainbows.

 

Do all cars there have 2 tanks, or just the campers? I hope you have a pic with the 2 tents on top of the car...

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@@xyz99 , not all cars have two tanks, but most of them yes. It depends on the company. Advanced equippes all his cars with double tanks.

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wonderful photos, the rain seems like a blessing (so far!) I am looking forward to the rest of the report!

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Posted (edited)

@@xelas Great start! Looking forward to the rest of this report. Lovely photos of the storm, sunset and rainbows. When we were in Namibia last year in May it was terribly dry. They really needed rain so I'm pleased to see it looking green. But hope it didn't rain too much and cause you problems.

Edited by Pennyanne
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@@xelas how wonderful that you were travelling with your daughter again, that must have bought back many happy memories whilst all the time sharing an exciting new experience in Africa.

 

So looking forward to reading about your latest Namibian adventure.

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Hello @@janzin , @@Pennyanne and @@Treepol ! Still 20 days to report about, it will be a busy month for all of us :) .

 

Any rain is welcomed in Namibia, this year especially. And yes, we have missed Tanja on some of our previous travels; I hope she will join us now more frequently.

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@@PT123 and @@JohnR , welcome!

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Looks like a great trip and how special Tanja could be with you too. The weather and rainbow photos are beautiful as all of Zvezda's photos are. Let's keep going!

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@@PCNW , Tanja joined us after 5 years hiatus; I am sure Zvezda was very happy with her decision :) . As for the photos, it is tough to keep at least a reasonable distance after you are raising the quality bar with each photo posted :o !

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Day 2 (part 1): Choosing the knife

 

 

Zvezda and me loved Barchan Dune Retreat 2at first sight" so it was the obvious choice for our first night in Namibia. And we did not opt for camping, and this was a lucky draw as rain was on and off through the evening. The dinner was delicious, and as in many of such places, a communal affair. We have met other guests, and have exchanged interesting stories. A few photo impressions of this unique lodge:

 

Our room

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Dinner table

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Tanja's room

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Early morning wake up call was not needed at all. This is the view of the main house and of one of the cabins

 

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Before breakfast we went out to have some practice:

 

Unknown beetle

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Local lady

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Resident meerkat

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Rock Agama - male ...

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... and female

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Photographers at work

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Another local lizard ...

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... and a huge grasshopper

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As the dinner also the breakfast is prepared in a very upscale manner:

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(to be continued)

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But there was one other, more important reason why I wanted to stay at Barchan Dune Retreat!

 

In 2015, while driving towards Barchan, I have noticed a sign advertising "Hand Made Knives". There was no time to visit the place, yet when back home, I have searched the web for more informations. Now I have had enough time to go to Camp Gecko, where blacksmith and artist Rene is indulging in his life passion producing what he calls tools but what I call pieces of art! Although he was busy preparing for one of the largest specialised fairs in France he was kind enough to explain about knife making and different materials needed for blades, handles etc. After encountering Peter's brother Jack Connan who is also an accomplished knives maker, I have been looking forward to see one in action. Not this time, but there will always be a next visit! After we have done a short tour of the property (Camp Gecko offers both fixed tents as campsites), we went to the reception where some of Rene's beauties were on display. I never expected what happened next!! Both Zvezda and Tanja decided to buy a knife! OK, only one knife, so as usually when two ladies have to decide which one is the best (= the most good looking one) it took them some time. But they did chose well, and now we are proud owners of a Gecko knife :) .

 

The area around Gecko Camp which is about 15 minutes drive from Barchan Dune Retreat (like close neighbours in Namibian terms) is as fascinating as the one on the other side of the valley:

 

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This is looking from the road D1275 towards BDR

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Table on the main road (C14) pointing towards Gecko Camp

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And finally, The Beauty

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Sadly, when asked if I will be allowed to use it during my Botswana adventure next April, I have received a sharp as the knife refusal :( . Now, how will I survive in the true wilderness without a basic tool any adventurer has to have?!

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I'm glad to see "khur khur" the Surikate is still going strong at Barchan Dune lodge. He is quite old for a rescued meerkat. When I told my girls about your visit to Barchan Dune they asked me straightway, " Did he see Coco and Lucky ?" These were two dogs we met there. How I miss those endless blue skies !!

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I'm glad to see "khur khur" the Surikate is still going strong at Barchan Dune lodge. He is quite old for a rescued meerkat. When I told my girls about your visit to Barchan Dune they asked me straightway, " Did he see Coco and Lucky ?" These were two dogs we met there. How I miss those endless blue skies !!

 

 

@@Chakra , is this one of the two dogs?

 

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Yes, I think that is Coco. He looked like this five years back.

 

14793294636_c59f1ba334_c.jpgThe forbidden Love between Coco and the Suricate !!

 

Aging gracefully.

The other one who just came and rolled in front of me asking me to scratch his belly was Lucky !

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Posted (edited)

That initial shot of your vehicle and rainbow is a clear indication you will have a charmed trip. Let's see if my prediction is right!

 

The additional rainbows, gorgeous scenery, happy faces through the vehicle window, lovely accommodations and handsome new knife on Page 1 are all in line with charming!

Edited by Atravelynn
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@@Atravelynn , to confirm your prediction there should be a spoiler alert ;) ! But yes, with all those you mentioned, and with not one but this time two charming ladies (not to mention the butterfly), what else then a charmed trip has been ahead of us :wub: !

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Day 2 (part 2): Into the Dunes (the easy way)

 

 

With a short drive from Gecko Camp to Sesriem ahead of us, we have plenty of time to stop again at Solitaire. Some people says the apple crumble is not anymore what it was while McMoose was still preparing it, and that now the title of the best goes to the one you can get in Helmeringhausen, yet, I cannot force myself to skip it. Weather was now as expected, nice sun and white clouds, and while I have enjoyed the crumble, ladies did the obligatory photo session with old cars.

 

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Soon after leaving Solitaire on the way to Sesriem we have had our first and only river crossing in Namibia, one that actually involved driving through water and not on sand. Just to celebrate this rare occasion, I have done several crossings :D , which were all duly documented.

 

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Baboons have also been happy with abundant food after abundant rainfall, which, when looking back towards mountains, was not at the end.

 

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(to be continued)

 

 

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Arriving early in the afternoon into Sesriem Camp, there were not many people at the reception. We have checked-in, checked our allocated camp site for later, and were entering the park at around 15:00. Our plan was to drive slowly the 65 kms to the 4x2 parking lot, then back again ... Sossusvlei the easy way. It is all tar road, with ample shoulders where one can stop for taking countless breathtaking photos!

 

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At the beginning of the valley the wind picked up, plenty of dust/sand in the air yet it gave Zvezda the opportunity for some not usually seen end result.

 

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(to be continued)

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Midway into the dunes, the wind settled down, and the sun did its magic on the dunes. There are just so many photo opportunities, wherever you point your camera :o:D .

 

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Dune 45 must be the single most photographed dun in the world! And it surely deserves all the attention it gets. For the change of the pace (and scenery) this bird of prey was noticed on the top of the tree near the Dune 45 parking lot.

 

Greater Kestrel

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The Posers

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Back in the camp, just before the inner gates closing time, and the task of preparing the roof top tent for the first time ever :unsure: .

 

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